Rising Incidents of crimes against foreign tourists has pushed the Tourism Ministry to send a communication to all states asking them to speed up the process of creating a special tourist police force.
The urgency was highlighted by an incident in Mumbai earlier this week where a Latvian national was raped by a driver who offered her a lift.
The ministry had reminded the states to speed up the matter in June at the chief secretaries meet. Today, only 10 states have implemented the measure — the communication had first been sent last year — while the rest continue to drag their feet.
But even in those states that have deployed special tourist police, it is open to question whether this is merely a token measure or a genuine effort. Incidents have been reported from at least four of the 10 states — Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
In September, two Japanese women were allegedly gangraped in Agra. In June, a South Korean tourist claimed she had been raped near Manali and in Alwar, Rajasthan, a German tourist said she had been raped by Biti Mohanty, the son of a top police official from Orissa.
These incidents dent India’s image as a safe tourist destination — despite the Incredible India campaign abroad — and
several prominent countries, including the US and the UK, have issued warnings in official travel advisories to their citizens who are bound for India. Other states where the step has been implemented are Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala.
In Goa, a big attraction for foreign travellers, several cases of rape, molestation and other crimes against tourists have been reported. Officials at the ministry pleaded inability to intervene directly, pointing out that law and order being a state subject, they could only urge the states to take adequate steps to protect the tourists.
"Whenever such incidents occur, we get a report on them from our regional tourist offices. There is also a complaints cell in our ministry where grievances of tourists are recorded and followed up for action. Besides, in our media campaigns we try to create awareness among those engaged in the tourism and travel trade as well as general public on the issue,” said a senior official.
The issue had also drawn the attention of a parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture, headed by CPM leader Sitaram Yechury.
A report tabled last month said: "The committee notes with concern that incidents of cheating, fleecing criminal acts and harassment of foreign tourists bring a bad name to the country and have an adverse impact on the foreign tourist arrival.
The committee feels that the issue related with safety and security is vital in creating goodwill and the Union Ministry of Tourism cannot wash its hands off stating that policing is a state subject.”